Ukraine Analysis: Russian Lawmaker Wants Alaska Back, Let’s Think out of the Box Too

As reported by FOX News, over the weekend, Russian parliament member Oleg Matveychev made an appearance on Russian television and demanded that the United States return the State of Alaska and Fort Ross in California, as well as pay reparations to compensate the Russian Federation for the economic losses from sanctions and the cost of the “special military action” in Ukraine. Alaska and Fort Ross were purchased by the United States from the Russian Empire in 1867.


Faced with crippling sanctions by the US-led coalition against his country for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Matveychev’s outburst is an indication that, contrary to the Kremlin downplaying the cost of taking Russia down the path of becoming a hermit kingdom like North Korea, members of Russia’s Duma are concerned that the quality of life in their country is about to suffer. My own assessment of this is that Russia will experience a social catastrophe far greater than the mid-90s depression that beset the nation after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Matveychev’s imagination wasn’t limited to asking the USA to turn Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan’s stomping grounds over to the newest Tzar, Vladimir Putin.  He also stated that the Russians discovered Antarctica, so it belongs to them too.

When I read this the first thought that came to my mind was, “Wow! There’s an out of the box thinker.” It reminded me of the kind of out-of-left-field proposals that were common during the presidency of Donald Trump, who was never shy about making proposals coming from angles that no one expected the US to explore.

Russia’s Precious “Correlation of Forces”

And then it hit me. The thing that the United States is missing as leverage in the present crisis concerning Ukraine is creative unpredictability. And I’m going to have to ask you to bear with me for a moment as I explain a very critical Russian foreign policy concept called the Correlation of Forces (COF). It made me smile when retired General Wesley Clark used the term in a panel discussion sponsored by the Atlantic Council discussing the possibility that Vladimir Putin might use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.


One mostly hears about COF among professional foreign policy analysts. The keyword is correlation, and it means everything to Russian strategic planning. In English, the mathematical term correlation as it applies to Russian policy is best understood as asking the question, “How sure are you that nothing will go wrong with this plan?” And for Russians, the line from the movie “Hunt for Red October” about no Russian captain starts anything without a plan most certainly applies. In this particular instance, what matters to Russia’s plan is how sure Vladimir Putin is that Joe Biden will play into his hands.

At the moment, I believe we are playing right into the Russians’ plans. Mr. Biden thinks his statements create clarity in the US position, so Mr. Putin knows where he cannot cross our line in the sand; but he is doing the exact opposite for US interests. We are giving Mr. Putin exactly the information he needs to mathematically compute the risks and rewards of his posturing and actions in a way that lets him plan around our naïve predictability. Our government is playing into the COF mathematics that the Russian general staff and foreign intelligence services use to predict whether the Russian plan will prevail.

We need to stop doing this immediately!

We need to return to being an unpredictable opponent that disrupts the plans of our enemies by surprising the moment with unknowns in how we will respond. We win these “rock and a hard place” confrontations by doing things the Russians don’t anticipate and can immediately see raise uncertainty in how things will turn out. In COF terms, what makes America a superpower is that we can turn our enemies’ plans into mush by our ability to turn on a dime in a crisis.


For example:

Harry Truman crafted the Berlin Airlift to prevent the loss of that city to the Russians, John F. Kennedy made Nikita Khrushchev believe mutual assured destruction would happen if Russia put missiles in Cuba, Ronald Reagan created the Strategic Defense Initiative that made it impossible for Russians to have any confidence in how a general nuclear war would turn out. SDI made their correlation of forces calculations fall apart. I know this very well. I invented the calculation. And here we are again, standing on the edge of a battle of wits between two hegemons.

I believe there is strategic utility for the US national interest for President Biden to think about asking former Presidents Trump, Obama, and Bush to brainstorm. Richard Nixon opened China and continued to work to open relations with what was a hermit kingdom after he left office. President Biden should consider that part of his problem in outmaneuvering President Putin is that he’s fighting with one hand tied behind his back. I’m only half-kidding that I could see Biden appointing Special Envoy Donald Trump to say things like, “Hey Vlad, you give us Ukraine back, we’ll help you not tailspin Russia into an economic collapse. We don’t want you to lose what’s left of the Russian Federation. You know it’s going to go to China. Come on man, all the goods in your equivalents of Walmart and Target have the same goods made in China on the shelves. Wake up and smell the coffee already.”


It’s not as farfetched to think this way as one might think. It’s how foreign policy breakthroughs actually happen. Adding on, in the spirit of the “We Want Alaska Back” narrative, here are some other change-the-game things the United States could ponder plopping into the calculus to mess up Mr. Putin’s correlation of forces calculations.

Add Abrogate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to the Diplomatic Narrative

Mr. Biden should consider telling Mr. Putin that his threats of using nuclear weapons have fundamentally altered the state of deterrence to the point that he leaves the United States no choice but to abandon the ABM Treaty and expedite bringing US missile defense systems to operational status.

Announce a US Initiative to Create a Global Nuclear Weapons Shield

Mr. Putin’s favorite intimidation story to the world is the Russian first use of nuclear weapons doctrine known as “Escalate to De-Escalate.” It involves telling the world that you have an advantage in the inventory of tactical nuclear weapons, which the Russians do by around 2,000 versus a paltry number in Europe opposite NATO. The war doctrine counts on NATO backing down in horror after a small sub-kiloton tactical device is used. Russia escalates, then immediately de-escalates the situation by offering terms of compromise to NATO who, being horrified, will either give up or pretend it didn’t happen.

That’s not really going to work. It’s probably better to try to get everyone in NATO together and say this. War doctrines such as “Escalate to De-Escalate,” or the use of any nuclear weapon by the military of any nuclear-capable nation against any target, will be considered a crime against humanity. Any use of such force will result in the catastrophic destruction of the military forces of that nation by the combined arms of the US and allied nations that join us in this mission.


To make that threat credible, the US Space Force and other assets will be tasked to maintain surveillance to be able to pinpoint and target the origin of a nuclear attack. We will build the capability to engage and destroy the origin point forces with increasing efficiency as a priority for our technology. We will not require any further warning to do so promptly to prevent the further perpetration of this class of war crime. Furthermore, the US will invite other nations, such as NATO and China, to join in this mission to protect the safety of the human race from nuclear threat. Our goal is to make the use of nuclear weapons unthinkable.

Tinker with Our China Posture

The United States should confer with China and support China’s position of neutrality and encouragement of a diplomatic ending to the Ukraine crisis. The US should point out to China that Russia should not be enabled to perpetrate the war against Ukraine. We know the Russian Army’s equipment and supplies are limited, that they cannot sustain a prolonged campaign against a determined Ukraine without assistance. It is not in the national interest of China to deliver that assistance because it will negatively affect the valuable mutual economic relationship across the Pacific Ocean between the world’s two largest economies, China and the United States.

As to territorial ambitions, the “thinking out of the box” message that the US should note to China is that Taiwan is a lot like Ukraine. It’s an arduous fight against a resistant population of 23 million people. And in the end, it’s still an island lacking in the raw materials China needs. Perhaps the Chinese should turn their eyes towards Siberia, whose military districts have seen their units head west to be decimated in Ukraine. If the war goes badly for Russia and their country collapses, that’s a lot of oil and mineral resources.


Maybe to get to that diplomacy end game, China might want to encourage Mr. Putin to pull some of those eastern district forces out of Ukraine and not rely so much on China’s squabbles with America as something to base his foreign policy and hegemony aspirations on. Hungry eyes change behaviors.

State that Keeping Ukraine Alive Is a Vital Interest to US Global Economic Goals 

This is on top of continuing to supply Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Ukraine with conventional weapons so that there is no way the Russian military can ever hope to conquer the country, aided or not. War is not about firepower; it’s about logistics. The West has far more logistics in its pinkie finger than all of Russia. Ukraine needs the ability to smash Russian supply lines and ships well to the rear of the front lines where the Russians are busy shelling civilians.


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